“Don’t it always seem to go,” Joni Mitchell sang (or Janet Jackson, if you came along a generation later), “that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

One more generation down the line and we get it. We definitely get it. So many things that we have taken for granted are on hiatus. No one knows how long they will be gone. Everyone’s world is different but there are things we have in common. On any other first Saturday in April for the past 40 years, there would have been Alabama football practice — maybe in a rebuilding year, more often an opening step to an intriguing season. Sometimes there would even be a quarterback controversy and the columns in those years would more or less write themselves.

Later in the day would be the Final Four semifinals — Alabama’s men’s team hasn’t made it there yet although I did get to cover the women’s teams trip to Richmond in 1994. The Alabama gymnastics team would be competing and baseball, an abundance of column ideas easily at hand.

No longer will I take that rich bounty for granted. There are still ideas out there, important issues in unprecedented times and if they require more work to reach, that’s part of the job. And ideas are welcome.

With that said, there are a couple of items worth mentioning on this Sunday, small although they might be compared to the larger coronavirus story.

The first is related, to some degree. It’s the controversy, if you want to call it that, about Alabama football players wearing Apple watches — some issued by UA — to allow Crimson Tide training staff to monitor various data like sleep rates and respiration.

My first thought is that this seems to be another of many college athletics issues involving a line in the sand between programs that can afford to pay for Apple watches (for example) and those who can’t. The watches certainly don’t hurt anyone and may benefit athletes down the line. But the mixture of budgets and the overwhelming mistrust that some program, somewhere, is gaining a “competitive” advantage is a strong mix. To be fair, both sides have their valid points.

To say that there are points on both sides and that schools need clarification in confusing times is one thing. To say Alabama is “cheating” is far from accurate. First, nothing has been hidden. Nick Saban talked openly about Alabama providing the watches. UA issued a statement indicating that it had been in daily discussions with the Southeastern Conference office on the matter. If that is “cheating,” it’s a pretty strange way of doing it, in broad daylight.

There are questions to be answered on all sorts of fronts these days. If Alabama receives an interpretation that requires them to change course, there will be change. The watches may be returned to the football building. (Relaying that news to Saban, if it comes to that, will require a bold volunteer.) Whether that will benefit the athletes is a different question.

There is also likely to be news on the Alabama basketball recruiting front in the upcoming week. Junior college forward Keon Ellis is expected to announce his college choice on Sunday followed by 6-foot-6 junior college point guard Saquon Singleton on Monday and forward Darius Miles of IMG Academy on Tuesday. Remember that these decisions don’t happen in a vacuum. What one player does might affect another. Still, two commitments would give Alabama a total of four and there could be more. That will make watching the next few weeks a bit like watching Olympic curling, and not just because Nate Oats is from Michigan. But as one stone enters the circle, it may knock out another.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt

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